History faculty members oversee project for Trail of Tears Association

WCU history department faculty Sue Abram and Andrew Denson are overseeing a public history project that recently received a development grant from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership.

An award of $5,000 was presented to the North Carolina chapter of the Trail of Tears Association, of which both are members, to be used to develop a website and brochure showcasing Cherokee Trail of Tears interpretive sites in six far western counties.

“The North Carolina Trail of Tears Association is thankful and excited to be included in the BRNHA’s grant awards,” Abram said. “We look forward to increasing public awareness and knowledge of the significant sites associated with the Cherokee removal and resistance period in Western North Carolina.”

Currently, there are 16 significant sites marked with wayside exhibits in the western counties interpreting the history of Cherokee removal from their homeland in the 1830s. These include military posts, roads used for movements of troops and Cherokee deportees, and sites of Cherokee organization and resistance against forced removal. The website and companion guide will provide an integrated, self-guided auto or bike tour and/or a virtual tour that will include stops at the interpretive exhibits.

The Trail of Tears Association is a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1993 to support the development and interpretation of the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. The North Carolina organization is one of nine state chapters.

“This generous grant will really help us fulfill our group’s mission of interpreting and commemorating the history of Cherokee removal here in Western North Carolina,” Denton added. “The removal period is so important to our region’s history, whether you are talking about Cherokee communities or non-Indians. The BRNHA grant will help us tell some of the remarkable stories from this era to residents and visitors alike.”

The grant was one of 22 announced on Feb. 15, totaling $170,000, to be used to support diverse initiatives across the North Carolina mountains and foothills, focusing on craft, music, natural heritage, Cherokee culture and agricultural traditions.